Music’s biggest stars are expected to skip music’s biggest night this year — and not for the first time. The 61st Annual Grammys Awards will go on Sunday evening bereft of their brightest lights. For some, it’s a matter of logistics, lack of nominations or lack of interest. But for others, it’s a statement after a history of missteps and snubs from the Recording Academy. In a nutshell: the Grammys need these artists more than these artists need the Grammys.
There was one surprising exception to this general rule, however: Widely expected to sit this one out, Drake appeared onstage to accept a Grammy for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan.” He hasn’t attended the ceremony since 2013, well before he achieved the peak of his career’s success. According to a recent New York Times report, the Recording Academy reached out this year to ask Drake to perform, but he declined the offer.
Drake did use his acceptance speech, however, to deliver what many perceived as a rebuke to the show: “If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you that. You already won,” he said.
Here are the major artists expected to sit out the 2019 Grammys and the reasons (or, in some cases, theories) behind their absences.
After Lemonade was passed over in favor of Adele’s 25 in 2017 — not that Adele didn’t graciously support her fellow nominee — Beyoncé has stepped back from the awards show. Although she was nominated alongside husband Jay-Z for their work on joint album Everything Is Love this year, neither is likely to turn up for the show.
Swift has a strong Grammy history, picking up ten trophies including Album of the Year in 2016 for 1989. But her most recent album, Reputation, received minimal love from the Recording Academy this year with only one genre category nomination. More importantly, Swift has been a no-show for years now, last dropping by when she won it all in 2016. Since then, she’s veered away from the awards show spotlight, although she has never made any public statements about her feelings toward the Recording Academy. In any case, Swift is busy: she’s currently in London, filming the upcoming film adaptation of the musical Cats.
It’s been a wild year for Grande; after releasing Sweetener in 2018 — and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album — she released thank u, next, another full album, on the Friday before the 2019 Grammys. But even though Grande was one of the past year’s biggest stories in music, she won’t be making a Grammys appearance.
According to her social media posts, she was initially planning a performance, but disagreements with the show’s organizers led her to pull out. She wrote a series of critical tweets to drive her point home: “It was when my creativity and self expression was stifled by you that I decided not to attend,” she wrote.
Lamar has picked up 12 Grammys over the years — but never managed to take home top honors, despite being nominated for Album of the Year three times now. (This time, he’s in the running thanks to the soundtrack of Black Panther.) But while he’s gamely performed at prior shows, including in 2018, don’t count on him coming to the stage this time: he also reportedly declined the invitation to perform extended by the show’s producers.
In 2018, Donald Glover’s Awaken, My Love! was up for some of the biggest Grammys. He sang onstage. And he lost. Now, his searingly political one-off release “This Is America” has the potential to win big in categories like Record and Song of the Year. But Glover reportedly turned down the Recording Academy’s performance invitation. It’s anyone’s guess if he will show up at all; he has been attending pre-Grammys events in Los Angeles, however.
Rihanna has often delivered memorable Grammy moments and won nearly a dozen times in the course of her career so far. (And she certainly knows how to come prepared, even bringing her own hip flask.) But it’s been three years since she released her last album, the much-lauded Anti. In the interim, she’s been busy launching a beauty and fashion empire. It’s anyone’s guess if she’ll make the time to return to the music world for a night — or stick to her other pursuits for now.